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Red Sox's Velazquez set for big league debut vs. A's

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Hector Velazquez is scheduled to make his major league debut Thursday night when the Boston Red Sox open a four-game road series against the Oakland Athletics.

With lefties David Price (strained left elbow) and Drew Pomeranz (strained left triceps) on the shelf, the Red Sox will try a minor league option in a low-risk situation -- in a pitchers' ballpark against one of American League's weakest teams.

The A's will counter with right-hander Sonny Gray, who has something in common with Velazquez. He also will be looking for his first win of the season as Oakland opens a weeklong, six-game homestand.

Velazquez is being promoted from Triple-A Pawtucket, where he fashioned a 1.55 ERA this season.

He will be surrounded by a team that endured a long day Wednesday, needing 13 innings to earn a 5-4 victory that completed a two-game interleague sweep at St. Louis.

The Red Sox flew into Oakland after the game and will be greeted by Oakland's top pitcher, Gray, who flashed his form of old when he limited the Rangers to two runs and five hits over six innings on Saturday in Texas.

Gray, who sustained a strained lat in spring training and didn't make his season debut until May 2, has progressed from 88 pitches to 98 and then 106 in his three starts. He has gotten better by the appearance, and will take the mound Thursday night with an 0-1 record and a 3.78 ERA.

"As good of stuff we've seen all year," A's manager Bob Melvin said of Gray's start against the Rangers. "He was in command. He was throwing everything for strikes."

Gray is 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA in three career starts against the Red Sox.

The 27-year-old Tennessee native hasn't won a game since last July 26, which was seven starts ago. His 2016 season was interrupted, and eventually cut short, by trapezius and forearm strains.

The Red Sox will begin the series having won two in a row, including a thriller Wednesday against the Cardinals in which Chris Young, who played briefly for the A's, was the hero.

Another former Oakland player, left-hander Fernando Abad, got the win.

Velazquez, meanwhile, will be facing an A's team that was on a bit of a roll when last seen at home, when they won four of six against the Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Angels.

However, the A's won just once on a six-game trip to Texas and Seattle, allowing exactly six runs in four consecutive games before getting shut out 4-0 by the Mariners on Wednesday.

"This is a guy with a lot of experience," Red Sox manager John Farrell said of Velazquez, who pitched last season in the Mexican League. "There's a lot of savvy and strike-throwing ability here."

Win or lose, Velazquez's stay with the big club could be a short one.

Price is scheduled to make an injury-rehab start Friday for Triple-A Pawtucket. He could be back with the Red Sox as early as next week.

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